Eroticism, Urethral

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Urethral eroticism is characterized by pleasure associated with micturition (or urination). In "Character and Anal Erotism" (1908b), Freud wrote, "We ought in general to consider whether other character-complexes, too, do not exhibit a connection with the excitations of particular erotogenic zones. At present I only know of the intense 'burning' ambition of people who earlier suffered from enuresis" (p. 175). In "Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria" (1905e [1901], p. 74), Freud emphasized the pleasure and erotic significance of micturition and considered enuresis as equivalent to masturbation. In his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), he specified that urethral eroticism occurs more particularly in the "second phase of infantile masturbation," the phallic phase.

In "Character and Anal Erotism" (1908b), Freud returned to the idea that enuresis is the source of intense ambition. The character traits that persist are either the unchanged continued primal drives or their sublimation, or reaction formations that conflict with primal drives. Freud emphasized the connections between urethral eroticism and ambition in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a [1929]) and between fire and genital eroticism in "The Acquisition and Control of Fire" (1932a).

In "The Narcissistic Evaluation of Excretory Processes in Dreams and Neurosis" (1949), Karl Abraham later pursued a similar line of thought when he noted that subjects inclined to urethral eroticism have a sense of unlimited power, believing that they can create or destroy any object.

In "Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict" (1928), Melanie Klein emphasized a specifically urethral form of sadism in which fantasies contribute to difficulties of sexual potency in men and unconsciously help attribute a cruel role to the penis.

Dominique J. Arnoux

See also: Enuresis (bedwetting); Oedipus complex, early; Wish for a baby.


Abraham, Karl. (1949). The narcissistic evaluation of excretory processes in dreams and neurosis. In Selected papers of Karl Abraham, M.D. (Douglas Bryan and Alix Strachey, Trans). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-analysis. (Original work published 1920)

Freud, Sigmund. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.

. (1905e [1901]). Fragment of an analysis of a case of hysteria. SE, 7: 1-122.

. (1908b). Character and anal erotism. SE, 9: 167-175.

. (1930a [1929]). Civilization and its discontents. SE, 21: 57-145.

. (1932a [1931]). The acquisition and control of fire. SE, 22: 183-193.

Klein, Melanie. (1928). Early stages of the Oedipus conflict. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 9, 167-180.

Further Reading

Bass, Alan. (1994). Aspects of urethrality in women. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63, 491-517.